Louis Erard presents the Excellence Émail Grand Feu – Small Seconds
Louis Erard has always followed this philosophy, striving to take as much care as possible over every single detail. This time, Louis Erard is going even further, taking another, extra step. Or, perhaps more accurately, crossing a threshold. Specifically, the threshold of the Donzé Cadrans workshop, the art enameller in Le Locle, the go-to address for some of the most prestigious brands. This is a workshop which manages to maintain the appearance of how an enamelling workshop in the 17th century might very well have looked, with its oven, its collections of enamels and its workbenches cluttered only by brushes.
No high technology, no IT. Man is at the centre: hand, eye, and know-how. Know-how which has been patiently refined, through practice, experiments and failures too, as nothing is taken for granted. The traditional Grand Feu enamel method required the dials to be built up little by little, with thin layers of silica, metallic oxide and potassium, combined for eternity in the alchemy of a succession of rounds of firing at more than 800°C. Everything happens in the oven, where the material, left to itself, is not easily tamed, as evidenced by the high and incompressible level of waste.
This new model, the Excellence Émail Grand Feu, issued in a limited series of only 99 pieces, celebrates the essence of this ancient profession. The process complies with the purest traditions, using a copper base, a ductile and temperamental metal, subjected to enamelling and counter-enamelling, in the exact same manner as the days before industrial technology existed, when synthetic varnishes had not even been imagined and Grand Feu enamel was the only way to provide watches with a face. A face for which centuries have slipped by without leaving a wrinkle. A face which, little by little, modern watchmaking reserves only for its ever-smaller number of high end, elite pieces.
This is the story that the Excellence Émail Grand Feu tells us. However, this watch goes even further. It carries a message: that of bridging the gap between artistic craftwork and accessible watches. Between the excellence of craftsmanship and everyday watchmaking.
The result is subtle, sensual. The colour, a delicate cream. The softness of the texture, as fine as skin. The harmony of the ecru and blue, that of the signature fir tree hands in blued steel and enamel-transferred indexes. The design of the dial features a small-seconds sub-dial at six o’clock, the ultimate signature of tradition.
And again, the blend of two different times, a mixture of two DNA: centuries of tradition along with contemporary watchmaking. The case, modern, sleek, polished steel, 42 millimetres, water-resistant to 50 metres. The coffee-coloured strap in calf nubuck leather. The Sellita SW261-1 automatic movement, visible through the open caseback.
Finally, the shock of the price: less than 4,000 Swiss francs. It isavailable from March, at the rate of around fifteen pieces produced per month.